Biden blames Palestinian group for Gaza hospital attack, absolves Israel

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Biden blames Palestinian group for Gaza hospital attack, absolves Israel

US President Joe Biden landed in Tel Aviv on Wednesday hours after Israel launched a deadly airstrike on a hospital in Gaza City, martyring hundreds of Palestinians and drawing condemnations from world leaders.

Biden on a solidarity visit to Israel backed the ally´s account that Palestinian fighters caused a devastating hospital strike in Gaza, adding Hamas had brought “only suffering”.

“I was deeply saddened and outraged by the explosion at the hospital in Gaza yesterday. And based on what I´ve seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team, not you,” Biden said as he opened a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv.

“But there´s a lot of people out there not sure so we have to overcome a lot of things,” Biden said.

“We have to bear in mind that Hamas does not represent all the Palestinian people and has brought them only suffering,” Biden said.

He said he was encouraging Netanyahu to ensure “life-saving capacity to help the Palestinians who are innocent and caught in the middle of this”.

In announcing Biden´s visit, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Israel had agreed to work with the United States on a plan to let aid into Gaza, which has been besieged and bombarded for 12 days and under an Israeli blockade for 16 years.

Israel is threatening a ground invasion following the devastating October 7 assault by Hamas.

Biden said he was “proud” to visit Israel.

“I want to say to the people of Israel — their courage, their commitment and their bravery is stunning,” Biden said.

Netanyahu, who has faced domestic criticism after the deadliest attack in Israel´s history, had eagerly invited Biden, who until recently had openly criticised some moves by Israel´s hard-right government.

Netanyahu hailed Biden — who has faced accusations from the rival Republican Party that he is insufficiently pro-Israel — for paying “the first visit of an American president in Israel in a time of war”.

“There´s only one thing better than having a true friend like you standing with Israel and that is having you standing in Israel,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu, opening the talks with Biden, called for global unity against Hamas.

“Just as the civilised world united to defeat the Nazis and united to defeat ISIS [Daesh], the civilised world must unite and defeat Hamas,” Netanyahu said.

“I can assure you, Mr President, Israel is united to defeat Hamas and we will defeat Hamas and remove this terrible threat.”

The horror of the hospital deaths threatened to derail his high-stakes visit, with Jordan cancelling a summit where King Abdullah II had been due to host Biden, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The Palestinian resistance movement Hamas said that an Israeli air strike destroyed the Gaza clinic, while Israel said a misfired rocket launched by the Islamic Jihad group had hit the Ahli Arab Hospital.

Between 200 and 300 people died, according to Gaza health authorities, while Hamas put the toll at more than 500 dead. Neither the Israeli nor the Palestinian accounts could be independently corroborated.

A man holds a Palestinian flag as Turkish riot police use water cannon to disperse pro-Palestinian demonstrators during a protest, after hundreds of Palestinians were martyred in a blast at Al-Ahli hospital near the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 17. — Reuters
A man holds a Palestinian flag as Turkish riot police use water cannon to disperse pro-Palestinian demonstrators during a protest, after hundreds of Palestinians were martyred in a blast at Al-Ahli hospital near the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 17. — Reuters
Middle East anger over the 12-day-old Gaza war, which has left thousands dead, has reached new heights after the hospital bloodshed, and protests against Israel were called in cities across much of the Arab and Muslim world.

Biden has strongly backed top ally Israel and its military campaign — retaliation for the killing of 1,400 people who were shot, mutilated or burnt to death in shock cross-border attacks launched by Hamas on October 7.

Israel´s campaign to destroy Hamas and try to rescue 199 hostages from the besieged and blockaded territory had already left at least 3,000 dead inside Gaza before the hospital was destroyed.

Entire Gaza neighbourhoods have been razed and survivors are left with dwindling supplies of food, water and fuel, unable to flee the 40-kilometre (25-mile) long strip that has been blockaded since 2007 by Israel and Egypt.

“The situation in Gaza is spiralling out of control,” UN World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “We need violence on all sides to stop.”

Hospital carnage
On the ground in Gaza, the blast at the Christian-run hospital brought new chaos and suffering Tuesday night, as the dead were pulled from the rubble and the wounded were rushed to nearby medical centres.

Scores of bodies cloaked in blood-stained sheets and white plastic wrap soon lined the floors at the nearby the Al-Shifa hospital, where stunned and bereaved relatives tried to identify loved ones.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society said hundreds died including women, children, staff and “internally displaced people seeking safe shelter”.

Ghassan Abu Sittah, a doctor with the charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF), recounted that “we were operating in the hospital. There was a strong explosion and the ceiling fell on the operating room”.

“Hospitals are not a target,” he said. “This bloodshed must stop. Enough is enough.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby represents the Anglican church, which runs the Ahli Arab Hospital.

He said the hospital was one of several medical facilities in northern Gaza subject to evacuation orders and that it had already been hit by “Israeli rocket fire” on October 14, which wounded four staff.

According to World Health Organisation figures, there have been more than 100 attacks on hospitals, ambulances and other health care assets since October 7.

People gather in the area of Al-Ahli hospital where hundreds of Palestinians were martyred. — Reuters
People gather in the area of Al-Ahli hospital where hundreds of Palestinians were martyred. — Reuters
News of the hospital´s destruction brought swift international condemnation.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said “responsibility for this crime must be clearly established” and the “perpetrators held accountable”.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” and warned Israel against “the collective punishment of the Palestinian people”.

Meanwhile, reacting to the attack on the hospital, Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said: “Strongly condemn the Israeli attack on Al-Ahly Al-Mamadany Hospital in Gaza, causing immense civilian casualties. Targeting a hospital, a sanctuary for those in need, is an indefensible act of inhumanity. International humanitarian law give protection to hospitals and medical personnel.

“We demand an end to this indiscriminate targeting and urge the international community to act swiftly to stop the violence and hold those responsible accountable. In my interaction with UN Secretary General a short while ago, I urged him that the global community should ask Israel to stop killing innocent Palestinians.”

‘Day of Rage’

Across the region, the response was quick and furious as protesters tried to storm the Israeli embassy in Jordan, a country home to millions of Palestinian refugees.

In Lebanon, demonstrators clashed with security forces outside the US embassy. Stones were hurled and a building was set on fire.

The US State Department authorised the departure of “some non-emergency” personnel from the Beirut embassy, citing the “unpredictable security situation”.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah vowed a “day of rage” on Wednesday, one of many countries across the region where street protests were expected.

Mourners stand near the bodies of Palestinians who were martyred in Israeli strikes, in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip. — Reuters
Mourners stand near the bodies of Palestinians who were martyred in Israeli strikes, in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip. — Reuters
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the cancelled four-way summit in Amman would be held “when the decision to stop the war and put an end to these massacres has been taken”.

The White House confirmed late Tuesday that Biden’s visit would go ahead to Israel, where he was expected to express solidarity over the Hamas attacks, in which 31 Americans were among the dead.

During the trip, Biden is also expected to press for steps to minimise the huge humanitarian impact of Israel’s military response on civilians and allow aid to enter the besieged Gaza Strip.

Speaking aboard Air Force One, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Biden would ask Netanyahu “tough questions” about the path ahead.